Dear Pastor ___,
I want you to know that I read the draft (of my first email to you–and also this one) to [my husband] before I sent it to you. We are one team, and anything of this nature that I send to anyone, he gets an approval vote. I realize now that I should have carbon-copied him so that you would know that he knew I was sending my email to you. The reason why I didn’t carbon-copy him originally was because I didn’t want you to think that I was bringing my thoughts to you (that he and I were both thinking) in front of an audience.
As to why you have not heard from [my husband] on this matter, it is because we are both introverted in nature and because I was the one who volunteered to talk on the phone–this matter is that important to us that we would break our general code of silence and that we would put ourselves out there (with the risk of losing favor with you and anyone else you might have shared this with).
I was the one who called because I was willing to. I was the one who then emailed because I thought about some of the things you had said to me, and I wanted a chance to reply to some of them.
You are correct: most everything I wrote to you is based off of assumptions and inferential conclusions because I am working with limited knowledge. Have you given me any other choice in the matter? I have sought out more information, but with regards to our phone call, you said something to the effect that the ball of privacy would unravel (which I get), and with regards to my email, you chose to reply to [my husband] instead of me (which I also get). But the question begs to be asked, though: How are my assumptions false? I ask you to show me where I am wrong so that my conclusions are rooted in actual fact and not in conjecture.
I am saddened that you are merely saddened that I think it’s possible that M__ is being taken advantage of. If you know that she is the type of person who is good at what she does but won’t tell anyone no, and yet you give her the reigns to the Kids program without a proper salary and benefits to match (yes, this is an assumption), what do you call that? She might be considered a good Christian for her willingness to serve, but you’ve known her long enough to know that it’s not fair to put all of that on one person without all the rights of the regular pastors on your team–all the while with her having to go through this thing with E__, which is now public because you made it so.
Yes, [my husband] and I know from experience that you have a genuine love for others and care deeply about those in the church and outside it. I assumed that because of this, I could bring forward the troubled thoughts that I had. We all have things that we don’t see that others do. I thought that maybe the things on my mind would be of some benefit if I had the courage to speak up about them.
[My husband] told me at that time that he received a text from you that he didn’t answer. I think it was because he was conflicted about what to say–things were kind of out-of-sync with our family at the time, but how do we say that to you without going into detail about why? Because the reason why had to do with our feeling like we had to sacrifice equilibrium with our family for the objective of maintaining church attendance. We longed and still long to be able to be more open with you and our church friends about our real-life struggles and successes. But for us, we just take a little more time to get there. I know that [my husband] feels remiss about leaving you hanging.
As for T__, S__ [H__], and M__ [G__] reaching out to me, I only heard from S__ and M__, plus J__ S__ (who included S__ C__ in her message). I did not receive anything from T__, unfortunately. I, too, feel bad that I left these women hanging. It is unlike me to not respond to anyone if they’ve taken the time to contact me, and I’ve tried to make up for my distance since then. I was in a similar state where I couldn’t bring myself to say that we were going through a tough time with three young kids at home and trying to balance that with church–it just seemed insensitive of me to say that kind of thing to women who, themselves, did what they had to do to raise their family and also keep up appearances at church. I cannot imagine what they had to go through and what they still might be going through to be the kind of woman, wife, mother, and Christian that receives high praise. But, aside from that thought, it is true that I have tried to stay in touch and develop relationships with all of these women (plus additional ladies not mentioned) both before and after our break from [the name of the church], yet somehow I often end up being the one who is left hanging. It’s just what happens sometimes, and the silence is usually an indication that the other person just doesn’t want to talk about it. I think we can all have compassion on one another in this area.
Thank you that your care for us still stands. Why are you at a loss to understand my email? What triggered it, if you appreciate honesty, is that I felt like you were taking a swipe at us for having been gone a year–when we really hadn’t yet divulged to you the reasons why. We weren’t anywhere else. Just at home. I wanted to provide some context for our disconnection, so I led with that. Also, you had “encouraged” me in the area of being vulnerable. I felt that our conversation was a good example of honesty, transparency, and vulnerability, and so I felt kind of bad about the insinuation that me and [my husband] hadn’t lived up to the standard of acceptable vulnerability. And then I also wanted to flesh out the ways that both [my husband] and me had tried to be mindful of being approachable and receptive to others during our time at [the name of the church], even though being open to others is something that we have had to consciously learn how to do. If this sort of thing isn’t what you meant, then what did you mean?
Another cause for my email was to further converse about gossiping and critical spirits because I wasn’t sure if you were suggesting that I was being a gossip or being critical by letting you know what I knew. I shared with you the additional things that I knew about the original fallout (and how I came to know those things) because I wanted to let you know that I saw a pattern emerging–a dysfunctional pattern, but one that could be fixed, nonetheless. You are the one who holds the power to fix these sort of things, and I just didn’t know what to do with the thoughts and opinions that I had except to share them with you (and besides pray about them). My decision to be open with you was an attempt to build trust with you, as you have built trust with us. I’ve told not a soul about what I know (besides [my husband]). How many people do you know would love to have and to spread the info that I had learned in a seemingly coincidental way?
Another cause for my email was to bring up the thoughts I was having about the lies you said people were spreading about you and how that could be perceived as having similarities to (as well as differences from) the inconsistencies in the story of E__ and M__ as the Children’s Pastors that was being re-written for me on the phone. I can appreciate that, as the Lead Pastor, you deal with a lot of people and a lot of info and a lot of everything. I understand that it’s important to spin things in a way that allows for lay people and non-involved attendees to get the gist of what’s going on without having to go into much detail. I just felt like there was more effort made than was needed to make sure that I had the updated story line right. It doesn’t matter to me what kind of credentials M__ (and/or E__) may be getting (though it might matter to certain parents). And it doesn’t matter to me who’s the main children’s pastor and when that transition happened, if it ever happened at all (though it might matter to other parents, I don’t know). What bothers me is that I know what I heard and I remember what I remember. Have you ever felt like your version of reality was being erased for you? That’s kind of how I felt. And I just wanted to lay those thoughts out, for the sake of realness.
And then I wanted to address the lack of judgement thing because it seems, from what you had said on the phone, like that former claim is being interpreted inaccurately. Parents don’t like it when people in power make decisions that involve their children without regard to what they as the parents may be thinking and feeling. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make different decisions to appease them but simply that it doesn’t hurt to consider a more acceptable solution (I had given an example of timing) to show empathy for parents’ concerns.
A further cause for my email was to let you know where we stand on our commitment to [the name of the church]. We want to see the church grow strong and stay healthy, and we want to be part of that endeavor. If we leave for good just because we may have a difference in opinion over how things are handled, then what good is it to have known us? While we may not be in our element yet (music comes to mind), we do still have something to offer, and that is our hearts.
All in all, [my husband] and I decided to put all of that in writing and send it your way so that I (and [my husband]) could earn your trust as someone (and [my husband] and me as a united couple) who thoughtfully considers things. Why hasn’t [my husband] or me brought any of our thoughts to you before now? Well, it just hasn’t been the right time. I don’t think that complaining about the Kids check-in computer print-out label thingy qualifies as a consequential item. But one of the Children’s Pastors is stepping down (temporarily, even, which is what was said at the meeting) for inappropriate behavior? Well, turning a blind eye to something like that isn’t right. We trust [the name of the church] with our children. I think we are within our bounds to press for more information and to follow-up with thoughts as we have them.
I appreciate the verses you provided on being connected to a church family and on trusting your leadership. One of the reasons I love Scripture is because it divides things out for us. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT): “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Who are the “some people”? Anyone who doesn’t go to church for any reason? We came back because we agree with you about the value of being connected to a church family. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NLT): “This makes for harmony among the members so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” We want to contribute positively to the task of “car[ing] for each other.” We recognize that it’s tough to do this when we stay at home or keep our thoughts to ourselves. Acts 4:24 (NLT): “When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: ‘O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them–“ We submit ourselves to the sovereignty of God and to the privilege he’s given us to lift our voices together with all the believers. Hebrews 13:17 (NLT): “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” You asked me on the phone to trust you to lead us through transitions. I do trust you–I trust that you are following the counsel of the Holy Spirit. I personally believe, though, that trust is something we earn from others and not something that is a given. I think the apostle Paul sets a good example for this in his writings (as the Holy Spirit directed him) where he meets people where they are at by giving them logic and simple reasonings on the things they had confusion about. In an attempt to earn your trust, I addressed the points you brought up, especially with regards to how you are at a loss to understand the cause of my email. It is not my intent to cause distress but to help heal. You are free to address or not address the things I have brought up. [My husband] and I like [the name of the church], and that’s that. But what about other parents who may venture to bring their thoughts to you about matters like these? Isn’t it helpful to the feeling-tone of [the name of the church] to at least consider welcoming discourse instead of attempting to shut it down?
[My husband] and I feel that we have said what we wanted to say in the form that we like to use (i.e., through written word). We accept your choice to respond or not respond as you see fit.